How to start a business in Wisconsin

10 Simple Steps

STEP 1: PLAN YOUR BUSINESS IDEA

Write a Business PlanWhy is professional business planning so important in this world of ours where NOTHING guarantees success?

Well, because we’re at the mercy of the odds in most respects and as Louis Pasteur put it, “In fields of observation [read: business], chance favors only the prepared mind.” Your game plan helps you get the most out of your ideas throughout the business cycle and increases your odds of noticing golden opportunities.

Take Action: Seize upon our 100% free Business Planning Course designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.

STEP 2: CHOOSE BUSINESS STRUCTURE & REGISTER

How to Choose a Business StructureLet’s assume your executive summary is a masterpiece the likes found in the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Next step is threefold: choosing the legal entity you intend on creating, registering, and in the process registering your official brand name with the state. Don’t worry, for most first-time entrepreneurs this part goes down as smoothly as one of Solly’s Butter Burgers.

Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a Corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you’re trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, you should probably form a Corporation.

Take Action: Decide which business structure is right for you. After that, have one of these two reliable services form it for you: IncFile ($49 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee).

STEP 3: TACKLE WISCONSIN TAX OBLIGATIONS

Small Business TaxesNow that you’re official your brand can bite into bratwurst-juicy tax incentives, subsidies, credits and kick-backs!

Don’t forget fish fries with local ketchup. And unlike the network of winding slides in America’s waterpark capital, you’ll find their tax code quite friendly relative to location and business structure.

Take Action: Head on over to the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue website’s Businesses Section which currently sports a free video/webinar showing you how to set up an account and get your Brewers in a row. Also, the Starting a New Business section has online registration options.

STEP 4: OBTAIN LICENSING & PERMITS

Business LicensesIs Wisconsin home to America’s Swiss cheese capital? Yes, it’s in Monroe just west of Janesville. However, because the state’s regulatory system is so modernized there’s very few holes to jump through in terms of licensing or permits. You’ve basically got two options here:

  1. For DIY’ers bookmark the License/Permit/Registrations page through the WI Dept. of Safety and Professional Services.
  2. For $99 IncFile’s Business License Package is amazing! They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.

STEP 5: OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank AccountThe next logical step for any about-to-be cheesehead is to ensure your brand’s financials are centralized in a benefit-filled and startup-friendly banking institution with its own checking/savings accounts. Don’t get your personal accounts into the mix. It makes tax time a complete nightmare.

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STEP 6: PICK A STELLAR WISCONSIN LOCATION

How to Choose a Business LocationSure, there’s a fair amount of financial incentives to basing operations in Wisconsin but from the stunning lake views of Bayfield in the north, to the bustle of Madison in the south there’s a 1000 reasons to set up a brick and mortar location as well. Furthermore, Wisconsinites know how to back a brand they identify with.

Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.

STEP 7: FUND YOUR BUSINESS

How to Finance a BusinessBecause you handled step 5 so brilliantly and your software’s rock solid, now it’s just a matter of raising capital when needed and strategically bootstrapping your way to lovely numbers. The good news is Wisconsin has the entire smorgasbord in terms of credit, grants, VC’s, angel investor funds, and a newer option we like is social lending.

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like tailgating and BBQ sauce. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.

STEP 8: DESIGN & PUBLISH A BUSINESS WEBSITE

Build a Business WebsiteHonestly we weren’t originally going to include this step but believe it or not there are still armies of startups who don’t take it as seriously as they should. Not necessarily in terms of marketing potential, which is clearly there in spades, but in terms of establishing a digital presence. What do people find when they investigate your brand?

Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there aren’t too many yet. Head on over to this easy Business Website Builder Guide to get a head start.

STEP 9: MARKET YOUR BUSINESS

Social Media ChannelDid you know the Green Bay Packers are a publicly-owned, nonprofit franchise and it can take years on a wait list to get season tickets? Almost no one does fan-hood like Packers fans. There’s a ton to be gleaned when it comes to marketing – brand ownership.

Take Action: Look at the ways people are able to get behind and involved with your brand. Listen, this is why CrowdFunding is growing by leaps and bounds. How could you leverage the platform to both market and raise debt-free funds simultaneously?

STEP 10: CONTINUE LEARNING & STAY INSPIRED

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsFantastic! With steps 1 through 9 in the bucket please consider Startup Savant a reliable source of motivation, tools, and valuable insight from fellow change-makers. It’s about riding the learning curve to the good life and staying jazzed-up along the way.

Take Action: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to tap into our daily feed filled with tips, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from entrepreneurs like you.

Wisconsin Startup Toolkit

Out of all the resources available to help you start a business in Wisconsin, here are the two we believe in most. With an incorporation service and business plan software, you'll take the first steps toward bringing your idea to life and having a solid plan behind it.

Incorporation services register your business with the state and handle all paperwork. For as low as $49, they'll bring your business to life by registering your LLC or Corporation in record time.

See The Top 7 Options
And

One of the most important aspects of starting a business can also be the most tedious: the business plan. A business plan software will walk you through the entire process in half the time.

See The Top 7 Options